Liberty State Park. A wrong turn on the way to the Holland Tunnel? Yes! But it is so much more. Liberty State Park is ferries to Ellis and Liberty Islands, the ghosts of the Central New Jersey Railroad, the Liberty Walk, Liberty Science Center, Empty Sky, Liberation, views of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the awesome lower Manhattan skyline…and guys fishing.
My visit to Liberty State Park was accidental. Generally, visitors here are headed for the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. My instantly formulated goals were to explore and enjoy. Success on both counts.
Ghosts of the Central New Jersey Railroad. New York commuters disembarked from their trains here for decades, walking briskly to the cross-Hudson ferries steps away at the waterfront. Automobiles put the whole operation out of business in the sixties, but here for your train-buff enjoyment is the ten-track train shed where all the hustle and bustle took place. The shed is in nearly-falling-down condition, surrounded by chain link fence, with trees growing through the platforms and road bed. Even so, each track lists multiple destinations such as Atlantic City and Philadelphia, and you can almost imagine a hissing commuter train pulling in.
The beautifully restored Communipaw Terminal is now Liberty State Park Headquarters, and ferry ticket sales and ferry security screenings can be found within. And lunch.
The Liberty Walk. What’s not to like about a waterfront promenade? What’s not to like about a 1.3 mile waterfront promenade with spectacular views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, lower Manhattan, and guys fishing? Speaking of guys fishing, I observed one happy fisherman catch an 18-inch striped bass. Wow. But alas, 30 inches is the limit. He threw it back.
Liberation. This 18-foot-tall bronze statue at the Southern end of Liberty Walk depicts an American soldier carrying a rescued Holocaust survivor at the end of World War II. The face of the soldier is resolute, determined, and war-weary. The survivor expresses resignation and relief. His prisoner number is engraved on his left forearm. I challenge you to gaze upon this and not feel.
Empty Sky. The newest addition to Liberty State Park is a memorial to the New Jersey victims of the 9-11 attacks, dedicated on the 10-year anniversary of that most terrible history-changing day. The monument consists of two metallic 30-foot high parallel walls about 15 feet apart directing the observer’s attention to Ground Zero, the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. Names of the victims are engraved on the interior of the walls, and become visible as you walk past them. The length of the walls equals the length of the footprint of each tower, and the two parallel walls evoke the Twin Towers themselves.
More than a wrong turn, Liberty State Park is a nice place to spend an afternoon. And just over three hours from downtown Baltimore.